Universities Game Student Entrance Exam Scores

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College entrance exams are given a significant amount of weight by schools when they consider admitting students. The higher the ACT or SAT score, the better, as colleges and universities consider them to be good measurements on how a student will perform while attending college. At least that is how the thinking goes.

Those same entrance exam scores serve another purpose, most notably as a way for colleges to be ranked by various respected publications including the Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report. Obtaining a high ranking by these publications does wonders for garnering attention for the school which can use that news to convince alumnae to donate, corporations to fund projects, and to lure new students to the school.

Last week The New York Times ran an editorial — $1000 For 50 Points — whereby the newspaper uncovered a trend at some schools where students are urged to retake the SAT in a bid to raise their scores. At Baylor University in Waco, TX, the newspaper learned that the school routinely gives students $300 in campus bookstore credit to retake the test, and $1000 in scholarship money if their score increases by at least 50 points.

That revelation has shaken Baylor to the core with the university’s faculty senate calling the practice “academically dishonest.” Moreover, the university has promised to end entrance score gaming, something that other schools also are involved in.

The Times editorial mentioned that the National Association for College Entrance Counseling recently reminded colleges that entrance exams are just one criterion for judging applications and urged colleges and foundations to quit awarding merit scholarships which are based exclusively on college entrance exams.

Students have long been permitted to retake their SATs and are often encouraged to do so on the high school level in order to further their chances of being admitted to the school of their choice. Now, with the focus on gaming scores on the college level, will universities and colleges across the US finally diminish the importance of college entrance exams once and for all?

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